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22 New Cookbooks for 2022: Something for everyone on your list

The covers of "First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home" by Frankie Gaw and "Mi Cocina:  Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico" by Rick Martínez. (Courtesy)
The covers of "First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home" by Frankie Gaw and "Mi Cocina:  Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico" by Rick Martínez. (Courtesy)

It’s that time of year again. My office is cluttered with towering stacks of this year’s cookbooks focused on all kinds of cooking from vegan and vegetarian to meat and BBQ, Southern, Mexican, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian, baking and cookies, and more.

So what is it that makes one cookbook stand out over another? Curiosity, for one. A need to learn more about a culture, cuisine, or technique. A desire to perfect a Mexican pozole, Korean pancake, Japanese pickle, or French-style cake.

I am also highly attracted to cookbooks that contain language — both in the narrative and in the recipes — that is clear, precise, and user-friendly. I want a recipe that doesn’t ask me to use every pot and pan in the kitchen (hate those long clean-ups!) and warns me when something has to be started a day before it’s ready to be served. I want a cookbook author to speak to me as if they are there with me, in my kitchen:  “Hey, Kathy, don’t forget to add the cilantro at the end. Be sure your oven is preheated and you put the cake on the lower shelf. Don’t forget to slowly whisk the buttermilk into the batter a cup at a time.” Those kinds of directions make me feel calm, organized, and capable of doing nearly anything in my kitchen.

Here is my list of a few (22 to be precise) favorite new cookbooks:

My top 3 favorites

First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home” by Frankie Gaw

Cookbooks don’t often make me cry. But Frankie Gaw’s new memoir/cookbook caused me to weep. Gaw is the son of immigrant parents from Taipei, Taiwan. Raised in the suburban midwest, Gaw felt “food was at the heart of my discovering both deep shame and overflowing pride.” In an essay titled “Steven,” he tells the story of a visit with his grandmother who is suffering from dementia. Steven is his father who he hasn’t seen in years and the story is spare and emotional. In Coming Out, Gaw writes a letter to his father: “I’m pan frying bing on the stove in my kitchen … just like how Grandma taught you. Cooking these fragrant flatbreads reminds me of our past life. A life I’m seemingly starting to forget as years trail by.” Eventually, we realize it’s a coming-out letter, from a gay son to his absent father. It’s a brave and beautiful letter, and also tells of his love of cooking traditional Taiwanese food.

“First Generation” also offers a mouth-watering collection of recipes– from Cold Marinated Pickles to dumplings, stews, whole steamed fish, noodle soups, and more. I tried the Dan Bing (a Taiwanese Egg Crepe) for breakfast and felt like it could become a regular morning meal. Flour, water and eggs are whisked together and added to a hot skillet. Once it’s cooked you cut the crepe into small pieces and top it with a simple sauce of soy sauce, honey, scallions, and sesame seeds. But what really won me over was an unlikely recipe for Coca-Cola and Soy-Glazed Baby Back Ribs. It was easy to make – sweet, gooey, and savory and the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. Served with white rice and topped with chopped scallions it was a perfect warming midweek meal. And a great example of Gaw’s American-Taiwanese background.

Coca-Cola and soy-glazed baby back ribs

Makes 4 servings

My grandma always prepared ribs slow-cooked in a simple daikon broth, with ribs sawed into thirds by the butcher and cut between the bone into bite-sized nuggets, a distinct preparation I’ve only seen in Asian cuisine. My dad meanwhile loved to cook chicken drumsticks in Coca-Cola, balancing the intense sweetness of his favorite soft drink with the saltiness of soy and the acid of vinegar. This recipe uses baby back ribs butchered like my grandma’s while braised in my dad’s go-to marinade. Just go to your local grocery store and ask the butcher to cut the rack into thirds across the bone to make three long strips. The ribs are slow cooked for a couple hours, its fat rendering in a soy sauce, Coke, and black vinegar marinade, creating a complex sauce that transcends its simple ingredients. The black vinegar meanwhile tenderizes the ribs for fall-off-the-bone bites coated in sweet and salty stickiness. This dish goes great with a simple bowl of white rice, the perfect landing spot to take on all those extra drippings from the ribs.

Ingredients 

Coca-Cola and soy-glazed baby back ribs. (Courtesy)

Dry rub

  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger


Ribs

  • 1 full rack baby back ribs, cut into thirds across the bone


Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons black vinegar
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola


Toppings and accompaniments

  • Chopped scallions
  • 1 recipe white Rice


Instructions

  1. Prep the dry rub and ribs: In a large mixing bowl, combine the brow sugar, granulated sugar, paprika, salt, onion powder, pepper, rosemary, garlic, and ginger, and stir to mix well. Chop the baby back ribs into individual pieces by cutting between each bone. Add the baby back ribs to the bowl of dry rub and massage each piece of meat with the dry rub. Cover the bowl and transfer to the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Cook the ribs: Preheat the oven to 275°F. In a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven, combine the soy sauce, honey, black vinegar, and Coca-Cola. Add the ribs to the pot and toss them in the marinade, then place the pot into the oven. Roast for 2½ hours, until the ribs are tender and falling off the bone.
  3. Glaze and serve the ribs: Remove the ribs from the oven. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with scallions, and enjoy with a side of white rice.


Reprinted with permission from First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home by Frankie Gaw. Text and photography by Franklin Gaw copyright Ó 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Mi Cocina:  Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martínez

Halfway through preparing Pozole Verde estilo Guerrero from Rick Martinez’s stunning new cookbook, my kitchen smelled like Mexico – full of pungent spices, chiles and toasted corn. I could barely wait the 45 minutes required to simmer the posole, but it was well worth the patience. Posole can be quite complex, but Martinez breaks it down into three easy steps.

The book cover – pinks, yellows, reds, and orange – signals this is a volume full of sunshine and bright flavors. The book is divided by the regions of Mexico and is a personal exploration of the food of his heritage. Growing up in Austin, Texas, Martinez wanted to learn more about what it meant to be Mexican. Years after working at Bon Appetit magazine (and being underpaid and undervalued) he writes he “fell in love with a beach town in Mexico and decided to buy a house there. “Mi Cocina is the story of where I went, who I met, what I learned, what I ate, and how to make it. It’s also the story of who I am, and who I am becoming – past, present, and future.”

I can’t wait to try the Tamales Oaxaquenos, Ceviche de Camaron y Leche de Coco (raw shrimp and watermelon tossed with coconut milk and lime juice), Carne Asada (marinated beef grilled with chorizo, jalapenos served with grilled quesadillas), and many more.

Pozole Verde estilo Guerrero

Pozole Verde estilo Guerrero. (Courtesy of Ren Fuller)

Reprinted with permission from Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martinez, copyright © 2022. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Ren Fuller. Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

What’s for Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People by Claire Saffitz

This book is a follow-up to her popular “Dessert Person.” In this collection you’ll find recipes for chilled and frozen desserts, easy cakes, pies, tarts, cobblers, crisps, and much more. This is not the kind of book you pull out when you want to bake a plain old apple pie. No, the recipes here all have some kind of twist. Instead of Lemon Cake you’ll find Crystalized Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake. It’s a moist, lemony cake with a super simple lemon glaze that gets poured over the cake while it’s still warm. Looking for shortbread cookies? The All-In Shortbreads are chock full of texture and unexpected flavors from crushed salted pretzel sticks, crunchy pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, and coconut chips. The Pound Cake is made with polenta and pistachios. Expect the unexpected. And be delighted. I found the recipes easy to follow, breaking everything down into manageable steps. I can’t wait to try the Free-Form Hazelnut Florentines, the Peach, Bourbon & Pecan Cake, and the Mango-Yogurt Mousse. You are in skilled, trusted hands here.

Crystallized meyer lemon bundt cake

Crystallized meyer lemon bundt cake. (Courtesy)

One of my favorite sources for dessert inspiration is the work of several renowned pastry chefs and cookbook authors from the 1980s and ’90s. One such author is Flo Braker, whose impeccable (and impeccably written) recipes are models of the craft. One of Flo’s famous recipes is her Crystal Almond Pound Cake, so-called because the sugary glaze crystallizes into a crunchy shell around the cake. Here I apply Flo’s glazing technique to my olive oil-based Meyer lemon Bundt cake. Instead of incorporating lemon juice into the batter, which can weaken the structure and throw off the leavening, I add it to the glaze for extra fresh lemon flavor. The olive oil in the glaze helps to preserve the cake and keeps it moist and delicious for an entire week.

Serves 12

Difficulty: 2 (Easy)

Active time: 40 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes, plus time to cool

Special equipment: 12-cup metal Bundt pan, hand mixer

Ingredients 

  • Butter and flour for the pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (14.2 oz / 405g)
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ½ teaspoon Morton kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup whole milk (8.5 oz / 240g), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup Meyer lemon juice (6 oz / 170g), divided
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest, from about 2 lemons
  • 1¾ cups plus 2⁄3 cup sugar (1 7 oz / 483g)
  • 4 large eggs (7 oz / 200g), at room temperature
  • 11⁄3 cups plus 2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil (8 oz / 237g)


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the inside of a 12-cup metal Bundt pan with room temperature butter, making sure to coat every facet and crevice. Dust the inside with several pinches of flour, then shake and tilt the pan in all directions to coat the buttered surfaces completely. Tap out any excess flour and set the pan aside.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda to combine. Set aside.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients: In a separate medium bowl or 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk, vanilla, and ¼ cup (2 oz / 57g) of the Meyer lemon juice. Set aside.
  4. Beat the eggs and sugar, then stream in the oil: In a large bowl, combine the lemon zest and 1¾ cups (12.3 oz / 350g) of the sugar and massage the mixture with your fingertips until it’s fragrant and looks like wet sand. Add the eggs and beat with a hand mixer on medium-low speed until the eggs are broken up, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light, thick, and mousse-y, about 3 minutes. Beating constantly, very gradually stream in 11⁄3 cups (7 oz / 200g) of the olive oil and continue to beat just until the mixture is smooth, thick, and emulsified.
  5. Make the batter: Reduce the mixer speed to low and add about one-third of the dry ingredients, mixing just until the flour disappears, then stream in half of the milk mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients in two additions, alternating with the remaining milk mixture, and mix just until you have a smooth, thick batter with no traces of flour. Switch to a flexible spatula and fold the batter several times, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, to make sure it’s evenly mixed.
  6. Bake: Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake until the top is risen, split, and golden brown, and a skewer or cake tester inserted into the tallest part of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Set the cake aside to cool in the pan for 15 minutes
  7. Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup (4 oz / 113g) Meyer lemon juice, 2⁄3 cup (4.7 oz / 133g) granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil and stir vigorously with a fork or whisk to dissolve some of the sugar.
  8. Glaze the cake: While the cake is still hot inside the pan, use a toothpick to poke holes all over the surface, then generously brush some of the glaze over the top to soak it. Use a paring knife to cut down carefully between the cake and the pan all the way around and along the inner tube to loosen it. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, lift away the Bundt pan, and set the rack on a sheet pan to catch drips. Poke more holes across the entire surface and brush with the remaining glaze. It will seem like too much liquid, but keep applying it layer by layer until you’ve used it all, letting the cake absorb it gradually. Use the brush to pick up drips of glaze from the sheet pan and reapply to the cake. Let it cool completely.


Can I . . .

Make it ahead? Yes. The cake, well wrapped and stored at room temperature, will keep for up to 1 week and will improve in flavor and texture over the first couple of days.

Make it with regular lemons? Yes. You can substitute regular lemon juice for the Meyer lemon juice but decrease the quantity to ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 oz / 142g), adding 2 tablespoons to the wet ingredients and ½ cup (4 oz / 113g) to the glaze. (Note that the lemon juice will cause the milk to curdle, but this won’t affect the recipe.) Use an equal quantity of regular lemon zest as Meyer lemon.

What’s For Dessert?” Copyright © 2022 by Claire Saffitz. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Jenny Huang. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

More favorites

Via Carota: A Celebration of Seasonal Cooking from the Beloved Greenwich Village Restaurant by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi

Via Carota, in the West Village in Manhattan, is one of those restaurants that you don’t want to talk about too much because it’s already so hard to score a table. But now, thanks to this new book by the restaurant’s owners, you can cook many of the dishes that cause people to line up for their food. The prized Via Carota green salad (I know, what’s special about a green salad? You have to try this to understand) relies on the freshest, most buttery lettuces and a chopped shallot in the vinaigrette. The famed pasta, fish, and vegetable dishes are all here. Oh, and Cacio e pepe lasagna! One caveat: you need to know a bit about cooking to follow these recipes. The instructions are there, but they assume one knows basic techniques without a whole lot of explanation.

The Miracle of Salt: Recipes and Techniques to Preserve, Ferment, and Transform your Food by Naomi Duguid

Making butter from scratch might sound like something you’d witness at an 18th century farm, but with Duguid as your guide you use a food processor, organic heavy cream, and whirl. Buttermilk is separated from the whipped cream (which you keep and use in baking) and the cream results in butter. You knead fine sea salt into the butter and keep it in the refrigerator. Salt and cream = delicious homemade butter. An Iranian recipe for green olives in walnut-pomegranate sauce. Japanese-style salted salmon. This book offers a trip around the world through the lens of salt – one of the most important ingredients in the world. Duguid is a trusted guide and this is an almost encyclopedic work. It would make a great gift with a collection of sea salts.

Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home by Eric Kim

Kim is a New York Times food writer who grew up in Atlanta, the son of two Korean immigrants. His story, told through food, comes in the form of  recipes, essays, and memories. The recipe collection is thoroughly appealing: from Jean’s Perfect Jar of Kimchi to Crispy Yangnyeom Chickpeas with Caramelized Honey (a vegetarian play on Korean fried chicken). The Smashed Potatoes with Roasted Seaweed Sour Cream Dip looks amazing.

The Cook You Want To Be:  Everyday Recipes to Impress by Andy Baraghani

You know that experience when you flip through the pages of a new cookbook, you find one recipe that looks interesting and you think “maybe I’ll try this one?” In “The Cook You Want To Be,” I found myself earmarking dozens of recipes – particularly those focused on vegetables:  Sweet and Sour Caramelized Squash with Pistachio Za’atar, Tangy Beets with Mint and Sesame Sprinkle, and Perfect Cauliflower with Spicy Coconut Crisp. This is an ideal book for the beginner or a seasoned cook looking for new flavors.

Tanya Holland’s California Soul: Recipes from a Culinary Journey West by Tanya Holland

A collection of recipes and essays that explores California soul food that plays homage to Black farmers and businesses.

My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi

A celebration of the African diaspora, this book offers recipes from the Caribbean and Nigeria to the American south and the Bronx. Some of it feels very “chefy” – like Lobster Remoulade Sliders– but most recipes feel down-home, like Dirty Rice made with chicken livers, Curried Chicken, Curried Goat, and Jamaican Callaloo.

Ghetto Gastro Presents Black Power Kitchen by Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao and Lester Walker

This book combines essays, stunning photography, interviews and a compelling collection of recipes to tell a story about community and the role food can play in community. Here’s a quote from the introduction: “…For us ghetto means home. It’s a way to locate our people, not just in the Bronx of New York City, where we as a group formed… Ghetto isn’t just about struggle and disenfranchisement… Ghetto is the flower blooming in the sidewalk cracks. Ghetto is our love language… and Ghetto Gastro is often described as a culinary collective… We take a multidisciplinary approach to our work that draws from the visual arts, music, fashion and social activism…We use food as our medium to connect cultures and conceptually open borders.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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